I’m not sure that Mary’s first thought was to nominate Joseph for husband or father of the year when he informed her that they were going to travel to Bethlehem to participate in the census mandated by Caesar Augustus. It had to have been a painfully difficult trip for Mary, and as a result, challenging for Jospeh too!
However, their obedience was important to fulfill the prophecy, made over 400 years prior, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem from the line of David. Not only was this important, but another prophecy was fulfilled as to where Jesus would be born.
Those who are familiar with the Christmas story know that in Micah 5:2, it was prophesied that the expected Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And yet, have you ever wondered why the angels appeared to the shepherds? Well, Micah 4, is where we find the answer to this question.
As I mentioned yesterday, God always seems to pick people who are insignificant in the eyes of most people. The shepherds certainly fit the bill. They were viewed to be at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, but there’s another reason why they are important characters in this story.
Alfred Edersheim is the one who many believe is due the credit for discovering the meaning of a more subtle reference in Micah 4. In Chapter 6 of The Life and Times of Jesus Messiah, he wrote about what the “Watchtower of the flock” was that is referenced in Micah 4:8.
You can read more about this at this link – – but the summary of this interpretation is that the watchtower of the flock, or better know as Migdal Eder, was not just an ordinary watchtower over just any flock of sheep. Rather, this watchtower and accompanying facility was located in Bethlehem to breed sheep for temple sacrifice.
When the angel appeared to the shepherds and told them that they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, that was all the description they needed. They knew exactly where to find this baby. For this was how the newborn lambs were taken care of in order to protect them from any injury that would create even the slightest flaw, which would disqualify them from being used as a “perfect” temple sacrifice for the sins of the family that would purchase and then offer the lamb to God for the forgiveness of their sins.
Therefore, Jesus was not born in a barn behind a fully occupied inn as we have perpetuated for so many years, but rather He was born in a place where sacrificial lambs were bred as an additional prophecy that one day, about 33 years later, He would become the final sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God – to atone for the sins of the world once and for all.
Had Joseph and Mary excused themselves from making the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem, because it was difficult given her condition at the time, they would have circumvented the prophecies that not only make the case for Jesus as the Messiah, but show us that He is the lamb of God who was sacrificed once and for all to reconcile us to God.
When God asks us to do something difficult, there is always a reason behind it. Our obedience is the way we demonstrate that we have put God in charge of our lives.